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.
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.