Some time ago my Sifu, Sat Hon, told me that I would have to choose between studying taiji as a martial art or for its healing benefits. The reason he gave was that, apart from any philosophical conflicts there may be, the tension required at the moment of contact completely negates any health benefits. His bias was showing as he pointed to an article he wrote where he proposes that the healing roots of the movements are revealed through forensic movement analysis (more of this at a later date).
The modern spread of taiji owes everything to its martial aspect, and despite being de-natured by the Communist Party and de-clawed by fuzzy, new age sensibilities, many teachers still emphasize its application in fighting. The non-practitioner must dig a little deeper to unearth evidence of the healing aspects of the movements but they are at least apparent in medical qigong where they are a component—along with herbs, moxibustion and acupuncture—of the prescriptions given by doctors trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
I come from a pugnacious little island in the North Atlantic where the martial mindset is bred in the bone, so giving up the fighting aspect was somewhat against my nature. But, in the final analysis, it is—for me—a pretense in that I am neither a nightclub bouncer nor a mixed martial artist, not to mention that, in these days of second amendment literalists, it is kind of obsolete. Choices are hard; we all want our cake and to eat it. But I trusted my Sifu and took the path towards healing and found that—surprise—the advantage of letting go of one thing is the benefit that comes when committing fully to the other.