I've written countless articles thus far stressing the importance of maintaining practical and intensive training for self protection as a large part of your martial arts study, and the internal martial arts are not exempt from this. Let's not forget that the word "martial" implies a combative context and to ignore that section of the art (which in this context refers to a skill or discipline) is to do a great disservice to those who came before us and the legacy they left behind.
While it's true that most martial arts are descended from combat systems, the internal martial arts have historically held a place of significance in protecting those of high stature. In Japan, the Minamoto and Takeda clans were charged as Imperial guards. They trained in the art of Oshiki Uchi (also known as Gotenjutsu) to protect the Emperor and/or Shogun for over 700 years according to oral tradition, an art that later became Daito Ryu - the root of all Japanese aiki arts. In China, Dong Haichuan was charged with teaching his art of Baguazhang to the guards after winning patronage by the Imperial court. Even Okinawa has its own internal martial arts tradition, Motobu Udundi, that was used for the same purpose. The internal martial arts were chosen for this purpose because of their superiority in allowing the practitioner to counter conventional fighting techniques through the use of structure and respond with devastating results. So how did the elite fighting system of the historical Secret Service equivalent become the laughing stock of the martial arts today, and how do we fix it?