A valid question, seeing the exposure most people have to Tai Chi.
It depends on the instructor, and on the audience. Martin Kelly, my sifu at Self Care Arts, sometimes teaches at the YMCA, and with those folks (mostly older people) he will stress the health benefits of the exercise.
But in his classes at his studio he will add the martial aspects of the movements too. The movements are the same, the attention is applied in the same manner, but the intent is different.
Also, in a combat situation, the moves are performed at considerably higher speed.
The reason the movements are practiced so slowly is because Tai Chi is an "internal" art, the body movements are not the most important part of the practice, the mind directing the flow of chi is.
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