Albeit almost 20 years in Japan, I am still a beginner to the language. However, the kanji intrigue me, especially when related to budo.
Take 型(KATA) for example - as in our set techniques or kata geiko. This kanji, although correct, is more of an empty mold, like an ice cube tray, producing colourless replicas solely based on the preset outer shape or form. Whereas 形(KATA) - again fundamentaly used in the same way, has such a deeper meaning. Ironically you need to see what is within the character to understand. If you look at the left part of the kanji, it resembles the gateway or tori you see before entering a Shinto shrine. The right side being 3 lines written from top to bottom representing 天(heaven)、地(earth)、人(humankind). You could interpret 形 as simply the start of something more meaningful, the beginning or first step to harmony between all.
Another example that I am sure many of you are trying to find meaning to - Let`s take the unusual characters(pun intended) from 養神館. Most of us know that the first two, 養神 basically mean to cultivate spirit, to develop, to strengthen ourselves so we can be better people, and in turn be an assest to our families, society etc. It is that 3rd kanji that puzzles me... 館 is supposed to be the facility, house or place where we can do this growing, where we have the bond and support to improve ourselves and our peers as a whole.
I live in a 館, the address ends with 弐番館(#2 HOUSE). It is owned by a landlord, rented to me by an agent, and taken care of by keepers. As long as rent gets paid, they do not care whether we are here or not. There is no connection, they are not at all invested in our growth or well being. I am merely another tenant.
Instead however, If you look at the kanji for HOME→家, it is also the first character in FAMILY→家族. Even in the English language there are numerous quotes differentiating house and home. "A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body" - Benjamin Franklin, "Home is where you feel at home, and are treated well." - Dalai Lama
So back to "KATA" VS "KATA". 型 is similar to HOUSE, 形 is like HOME. What is most important in our technique? The outside form? The exact angles? The direction of fingers and toes? Things we could without even stepping on to the tatami, without even being in direct contact with others, just copy from books, YouTube and so on? OR the stuff that can only be felt? the bond between teacher and disciple? the connection between students? the energy within? the 合気(harmony)?
"A house is made of bricks and mortar, but home is made by the people who live there". - M.K. Soni