1. Let's discuss the "copy" (as you've put it) of the original. Let's not go into the "copies" of the "copy".
2. "Imitate" and "Understanding" are inter-related. Making a watch which looks like a real Rolex is one thing but making a watch which looks, functions and almost as precised as the real Rolex is another matter.
You can never keep up with someone if only you always try to get into his footsteps….
You can always try and make the best of it.
A machine can copy, a living being like man, if gifted, can imitate and copy and go further
Look at any real piece of art; there may exist a copy that is in a certain way, if not clearer and finer than the original, nevertheless a piece of art per se. People adore "La Gioconda" at the Louvre in Paris.
If you have the gift to understand and see through, you may be better off with creating your own version of the art. You may very well start with imitating and copying, to become a good artisan, then, after having digested the essence of what has been created before, you may go further and extend to find out about your limits.
Compare Ueshiba and Shirata, Ueshiba and Shioda, Ueshiba and Hikitsuchi, Ueshiba and Tohei, Ueshiba and Ueshiba.
Then compare Takeda and Ueshiba, Takeda and Sagawa.