By the 20th century, Internal Martial Arts became reimagined by reformers and teachers striving to preserve Chinese culture, or to strengthen the Chinese nation against foreign oppression. The martial arts context of today evolved into a nationalized project that had state backing.
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.
Ancient Chen Taijiquan Boxing Treatise reveals that an alternate empty-hand boxing system is supplemented with the Lao Jia 74 Chen Village routine (sword and shield form).The Ming Dynasty boxing of Qi Jiguang has evolved a technique very close to that of modern Sanda- even more similar to Bajiquan. The irony is that most of the Tai Chi masters nowadays have never heard of this boxing, and continue to teach Chen Lao Jia Yi Lu as an empty-hand system. The historical misconceptions are considerable in modern kungfu culture.
The modern interpretation of Chen Tai Chi Chuan history is rooted in the Peking Opera and folk tradition of the late Qing Dynasty- standardized by the Chinese Government in 1928. Tai Chi, Xingyi, and Baguazhang developed centuries apart, yet are instructed under one category labeled “Internal Martial Arts”. Only the China government has authority to set the standards on internal/ external styles at that scale, as fighting lineages usually never agree on anything.