Single vs. Double Lever Control

Attacking a single lever affords more damage, whereas attacking two levers affords more control.

Attacks in Jiu-Jitsu usually involve an attack on one or more levers. For a deeper discussion on levers, see Core Mechanics.

Single lever control:

Single lever attacks are techniques that isolate only one lever. It could be the head, an arm, or a leg. Single lever attacks are most useful for submissions.

Generally, you do this by designating several of your limbs to attack a single one of your opponent’s levers. This often means a 2-on-1 or 4-on-1 setup, which generates overwhelming force.

Single lever attacks emphasize power. By focusing your attack against a single lever, you can do a lot more damage than if you split your power across two targets.

However, there’s a trade-off: when you focus all your efforts on a single target, you make it easier for your opponent to establish base and rotate out of the submission.

Single lever attacks are a great weapon against larger opponents, because due to their superior strength, you need to apply overwhelming force to achieve a submission.

Examples of single lever control:

  • Armbars
  • Kimuras
  • Guillotine chokes
  • Kneebars
  • Arm drags
  • Single leg takedowns
  • Single leg X guard.

Double lever control:

Double lever attacks are techniques that control two levers. Some submissions are double lever attacks, but many double lever attacks are also used for control and breaking alignment.

Head and arm chokes are an easy-to-visualize example of double lever control. In these techniques, you are attacking two levers: the head and an arm.

Double lever attacks emphasize control. By trapping two levers, you’re making it much harder for your opponent to rotate. This makes escapes much more challenging, and makes it easy to hold your opponent in position.

However, it can be harder to apply finishing power to a double lever attack because the force that you’re applying is not isolated to a single target. “Splitting” the force between two targets results in chokes and joint locks which are often harder to escape, but are less intense. This is why finishing a head and arm choke often takes a lot longer than finishing a submission that only attacks the head.

Double lever control is also very useful for setting up finishing grips. Many single lever submissions are easier to complete if you set them up with double lever control, and switch to single lever control when you’re ready to finish.

Note that double lever attacks often have practical limitations due to body type. In order to effectively apply a double lever attack, your limbs need to be long enough that you can control two levers at once and still generate force. If, for example, your arms are short, you may struggle to apply head and arm control. In contrast, single lever attacks will usually work against even massive opponents.

Examples of double lever control:

  • Triangle chokes
  • Head and arm chokes
  • The crucifix
  • Double leg takedowns
  • X guard.

Further study: