Lever control can be either direct (eg. a limb) or proxy (eg. the gi).
Levers are one of the core mechanics of Jiu-Jitsu, and the primary way you’ll exploit your opponent and create openings. If you’re not already familiar with levers, see Core Mechanics.
There are two ways to control a lever: directly or by proxy. Each of these have strengths and weaknesses. We’ll discuss them both below.
Note that lever control does not necessarily mean hand grips. It can also mean body entanglements, checking your opponent’s movement with your foot, or any other mechanism of gaining leverage.
Direct control means you are grabbing and using a body part as a lever. When you latch onto an arm, leg, or neck, you’re establishing direct control.
Direct control has the benefit of being intuitive and fast. It also allows you to exert force directly against the joints in your opponent’s body, which is the mechanism behind many submissions. However, direct control can also be somewhat slippery as it may be hard to fully secure a wrist or ankle with just your hand.
In no gi, all lever control will be direct.
Proxy control means you are grabbing something attached to your opponent, rather than grabbing their body directly. This includes the lapel, collar, sleeves, pant legs, and belt.
Because there are so many different ways to establish proxy control, it can be easy to surprise or perplex an opponent with something they may not have seen before. It can also be hard to prevent proxy control because so many targets are available. For example, if you break a sleeve grip, your opponent can always switch to the other sleeve, the collar, or the pant leg.
Proxy control can also be either loose or tight. Tight control makes it easier to pull your opponent off-balance and apply submissions, but it may also allow your opponent to break the grip or exert control against you. A looser grip is sometimes desirable because it’s much harder to break.
Obviously, proxy control applies exclusively to the gi.