No doubt - I always get the standard reaction when I tell people what I teach. Normally the conversation will start with people asking what kind of martial arts it is; most of the time they will respond with, "Well, isn't that just for old people?" I usually just laugh and try to change their point of view, but it's limited to what I can do without actually showing it.
Taiji/Tai Chi is considered to be a grand combination of daoist philosophy in motion, meditation, energy control, self-awareness and self-defense. While I have no doubts that taiji can be effective in close-combat, it would take decades of practice to master this style of self-defense, which is just impractical. Though I do love my traditional martial arts, I'm a practical person (perhaps stemming from my experience teaching martial arts in the military). Can it be used for self-defense? Yes. Is it effective? I wouldn't say as much. There are definitely techniques and principles you can take out of taiji and apply it to what you know; however, you would be better off focusing on something designed purely for self-defense, whether it's boxing, mixed martial arts, krav maga, etc.
So what is taiji really for? It's a tough question, and I feel taiji is what you put into it - it's completely yours. You're not trying to impress anyone and your time is precious. There are plenty of people in Utah who have practiced taiji for a long time, usually older adults, just following the movements and getting light exercise, which is great! However, to truly appreciate taiji for what it offers, there are principles often negated. Breath control, stance work, body awareness, weight displacement... sounds more complicated now, doesn't it? It's really not. When I teach taiji, I'll always start with basic stances, then basic movements, warmups, then onto the taiji set. Think of stances as words, movements as sentences, breath control as punctuation, and the whole taiji set as your personal monologue.
While I understand taiji better than what I knew 10 years ago, I will always consider myself a student of this art, constantly learning and implementing. I want to help reform the image of taiji into more than just a rehabilitation exercise for the elderly; taiji will be known as the relaxing, rejuvinating and enlightning exercise for all ages, as it should be.