Liu Yun Qiao and Chen Fake exchanged martial concepts in Beijing during the late 1920s. Both masters at the time- Chen Fake (Beijing Chen Taijiquan) and Liu Yun Qiao (Bajiquan) agreed there was a great similarity between the systems. Both fighting arts utilize segmentation of elbows, short-range power, the similar tempo of footwork etc. In the Ming Dynasty, Bajiquan and Chen Taijiquan were one system- gradually separated through modernization, with the fall of Qing Dynasty. The fusion and historical artifact are preserved in Beijing Gongfu Jia of Chen Yu (Chen Zhaokui’s son).
Chen Wangting, the founder of Chen Taijiquan- is a Military General who commanded hundreds of thousands of troops in battle, during the fall of Ming Dynasty. While Chen Wangting did indeed instruct feudal Chen Taijiquan to farmers- the farmers were elite troops… a farmer oriented-army. Modern Chen Taijiquan curriculums are influenced by the second wave of sports modifications after the mid-20th century, integrated with the western calisthenics movement in the 1920s. The popular context of Tai Chi vs MMA is very much a result of contemporary sports promotions- not ancient whatsoever.
Today, many Tai Chi enthusiasts enjoy the practice of empty-hand routines and work on intricate biomechanics, possibly some scientific martial physics- fighting prowess is rarely the priority. Fortunately, well-preserved feudal systems retain elite biomechanics, endured through battles of ancient dynasties. The sophisticated and scientific body mechanics are still practical for all walks of life.