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.
In ancient Chinese sculptures and paintings, most of the Generals were portrayed with a thicker muscular belly- characterized as the waist of a tiger, or ancient military commander’s waist. In modern times, though rare… raw lineages maintain a distinct core muscle control which descends from the Armor dynasties. Under the ancient umbilical is the Dantian, which is regarded as a crucial muscle group for medieval Chinese Knights. A dynamic and thicker waist can provide additional protection of the spine, and auxiliary force to the core muscles. Ancient treatise favors the commander’s waist for generating short-range power and maintaining stability on foot while wearing heavy armor. Armor prevents damage from sabers and polearms, requiring more emphasis on wrestling, balance, and core control for weapons precision. Many conflicts ended with knocking the opponent to the ground and disrupting their Qi with either a blunt weapon (mace), or a short weapon- to penetrate a suit of armor at the seams, or through the visor of the helmet.
Sumo is originally a method originating in China, and the golden age of Chinese sumo wrestling is the Song Dynasty. Song era imperial guards are strong and disciplined soldiers, but they have to undergo a strict selection and training to become a royal sumo wrestler. Descending to the Ming Dynasty (Chen Tai Chi synthesis), Sumo wrestling is listed as the six royalties- an important means of military combat training. “Real” Chen Tai Chi PUSH HANDS without armor, in ancient times- is medieval Chinese Sumo wrestling. The modern “sticking and adhering/ soft” aspects of push hands sport is borrowed from feudal weapons training and philosophical integration.
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.