Chinese or Japanese calligraphy is not something that can be learned by reading books. It has to be practiced, on a daily basis. Calligraphy studies are all about copying ancient masterpieces. In Japanese it is called rinsho (臨書), which literally means "to look and write". There are various types of rinsho. For instance, what you see in the below movie is a classical rinsho, where I copy characters from an ink rubbing (拓本). Before each stroke, I look at the masterpiece, each brush movement counts. Another type of rinsho is hairin (背臨), which is performed after studying one classic for some time. Hairin is rinsho performed from memory, without looking at the masterpiece. But what is the real purpose of rinsho?
Classical rinsho is essential to advancing in mastering calligraphy. It is not about crating the exact copy of given masterpiece (that is yet another type of rinsho, which is copying by means of a tracing paper). It is about the energy, spirit, dynamics, writing style, proportions, line characteristics, and so on. Rinsho means to copy the emotions, the mental state, the attitude, and the mood, that a given masterpiece consists of.
Rinsho is (or should be) the bread and butter of any serious or professional calligrapher, and it ought to be performed every day. Different masterpieces, different brushes, different ink, different paper, but the same aim - to mature as a calligrapher. Rinsho is the only way to developing an original and powerful calligraphy style (書風). This is the method used by thousands and thousands of calligraphers, including all the greatest ones out there. Calligraphy starts, continues and ends with rinsho.
For rinsho studies, a knowledgeable teacher is a must. It is very easy to make mistakes, and some ink rubbings can be barely readable. Aside good calligraphy dictionaries, a proper guidance is invaluable. Otherwise, it is very likely one will be repeating one's own mistakes. every month, my teacher goes through hundreds of pages that I bring with me for him to discuss,. I cannot tell you how important it is to learn from a true Master of this art.
Ponte Ryuurui (品天龍涙)