This thread is a little old, but it's interesting. I don't post much, but thought I would in this one.
In our dojo, the instructor is always called sensei--no exceptions. When bowing in seiza, we put our left hand down first, then the right. When rising from the bow, we raise the right hand first, then the left. When moving into seiza from hanmi, we put our left knee down first, then the right. When standing, we raise the right knee first, then the left.
When walking off the mat with a weapon, we back away--never turning our backs to the shomen.
Lots of little points of etiquette allow the mind to string together continuous attention and give us a common nonverbal language. At the same time, the spirit in our dojo is very light. There is a lot of laughter, no drama, and we are all devoted to one another. We train rigorously in a clean, uncluttered style with lots of martial directness. It's a great place, and I think the etiquette is one of the things that makes it so.
I completely agree. These little minutiae that we adhere to may seem frivolous to many people. Why bow? Why step onto the mat with a specific foot? Why hand a weapon off in a particular manner? Some argue over what is right and what is wrong. This is, to some degrees, ridiculous! These are practical actions. They are done for self-developmentment, not the appeasement of some nebulous historical traditions. The Japanese did not do these things arbitrarily, so why should we? I understand that people may not understand the reasons behind some of these actions, which makes it no surprise they don't place value to them. The actual act isn't so important as the intent behind it and the benefit one gets from it (if they let themselves).
For example, I totally get why you back out of the dojo with weapons vice turning your back to the shomen. It makes sense. My group has the exact opposite tradition, we would never walk backwards with weapons for practical purposes (of course we bow out shomen ho when leaving the mat). Even though we have opposite traditions when it comes to leaving the mat, the result in the same benefits....developing awareness (doing something for a particular reason at a particular time), forcing yourself to live in the moment (vice plodding off the mat, giving a half ass bow, with that cold gatorade in your near future in your head), etc.
Etiquette is such an important part of training and is such a practical part of budo training.