Are you wondering what a question mark kick is or how to perform a question mark kick?
In this article, we’ll look at what a question mark kick is, the origins of the question mark kick, variations of the question mark kick, how to question mark kick, the effectiveness of a question mark kick in MMA, the best UFC/MMA fighters to use question mark kicks, and more.
- What Is a Question Mark Kick in MMA/Martial Arts?
- Who Invented the Question Mark Kick? (Origins)
- Variations of the Question Mark Kick
- How to Question Mark Kick Step-by-Step
- Is a Question Mark Kick Effective in MMA?
- How To Set up a Question Mark Kick
- Best Question Mark Kick Fighters in UFC, MMA, Kickboxing, Muay Thai
- The Bottom Line
What Is a Question Mark Kick in MMA/Martial Arts?
A question mark kick in MMA/martial arts is a fake low/body kick into a head/neck kick with a snapping motion following the direction of a question mark – up with the knee, and over and around with the lower leg like a whip.
Question mark kicks are an advanced kicking technique originating in karate and used in MMA, muay Thai, karate, taekwondo, and kickboxing.
A question mark kick can be thrown by faking a variety of kicks, such as a teep kick, front kick, low kick, roundhouse body kick, and oblique kick. There are slight angle variations in which the kick travels toward an opponent, but the intention of a fake low/body kick into a high kick remains the same.
A question mark kick requires excellent flexibility and mobility in the knees, legs, groin, and most importantly the hips.
Who Invented the Question Mark Kick? (Origins)
The inventor of the question mark kick is Ademir da Costa, a Brazilian karateka who invented the question mark in the early 1980s when he was winning various championships.
Former Brazilian kickboxer and kyokushin karate black belt Glaube Feitosa is the pioneer of the question mark kick. He learned the technique in kyokushin karate as a student of Ademir da Costa and put it to devastating use in the early 2000s in K-1 Kickboxing.
Glaube Feitosa’s question mark kick was delivered with amazing technique, speed, and power, and he could cover an insane distance for a heavyweight as he was 1.93m (6’4”) with an unknown but very long leg reach.
As his legs were so long and he had amazing hip and knee mobility, he could connect over the top of an opponent’s guard with a question mark kick. Glaube could also throw the question mark kick just as effectively with the lead leg and he secured many knockouts as a result.
Because the question mark kick was invented and pioneered by two Brazilian karatekas, the technique is sometimes referred to as the Brazilian kick.
The question mark kick has since been popularized by muay Thai fighters from the Jocky Gym such as Lerdsila, Saenchai, and Silapathai, and in MMA by Israel Adesanya and Stephen Thompson.
Silapathai was actually using the question mark kick in Thailand in the 1990s before Glaube Feitosa but wasn’t credited as the pioneer of question mark kicks because he wasn’t using them on the same level of competition and promotion as Glaube Feitosa in K-1 Kickboxing.
Variations of the Question Mark Kick
While the question mark kick remains a fake low/body kick into a high kick, the technique has different names and slight variations depending on the martial art.
The aim of a question mark kick in taekwondo and point-fighting martial arts is to score points by connecting with the toes. This allows taekwondo practitioners to score while keeping their distance to evade counters.
Taekwondo practitioners also kick through at the end of a question mark kick to rotate 360 degrees to reset their stance. They can do this because they’ve kept their distance and they’re not at risk of a takedown or any grappling.
In kickboxing, the question mark kick is mostly known as the Brazilian kick due to the pioneering Brazilian legend Glaube Feitosa. Much the same as in MMA and muay Thai, kickboxers are using the question mark kick to knock out their opponent and try to connect with the shin for the most power.
However, if they want to keep their distance they’ll also connect with the instep of the foot.
In muay Thai, the question mark kick is known as ‘te kot’, which translates to downward roundhouse kick. In muay Thai, they like to get their kicks very high by pivoting up to 180 degrees. The further the pivot the higher the leg can reach and strike the opponent from a downward angle.
The question mark kick in karate has many slightly different variations and names. It’s mostly referred to as the Kubi Mawashi Geri, which translates to neck roundhouse kick, or as the Otoshi Mawashi Geri, which translates to dropping roundhouse kick.
The variation is simply the angle at which the question mark kick travels to an opponent. The neck roundhouse kick travels downward at a 45-degree angle into the neck, whereas the dropping roundhouse kick requires a larger pivot to get the leg higher to come down closer to a 180-degree angle.
It’s also commonly referred to as the Brazilian kick because Ademir da Costa and Glaube Feitosa were karatekas.
In MMA, the question mark kick is often thrown with less of a pivot because it reduces telegraphing, improves the speed, and makes it less likely to get countered as the back is not shown to the opponent.
With less of a pivot, most MMA fighters connect a question mark kick at an upward 45-degree angle. In this sense, the question mark kick is a modified roundhouse kick to the head.
How to Question Mark Kick Step-by-Step
The first thing to do before throwing a question mark kick is to get a good stretch because it requires great flexibility and mobility in the hips, legs, knees, and groin. Without warming up and stretching, injury can occur. Once warmed up, here’s how to question mark kick step-by-step.
- Stand in a neutral stance with the legs shoulder-width apart.
- Condition the opponent with a variety of leg and body kicks.
- Bring the rear leg knee forward high as if throwing a front kick or teep kick while keeping the hips square to avoid telegraphing.
- Pivot on the lead leg so the toes point at least perpendicular to the opponent, if not further backward. The more rotated the pivot, the higher the leg can reach.
- At the same time as the pivot, kick the hip over and turn the torso and shoulder over toward the pivoted rear leg.
- Whip/flip the leg over in a circular motion of a question mark and connect with the opponent’s head.
The question mark kick is an advanced technique taking much practice to execute in one swift motion. Here’s a short video of UFC fighter Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson showing how to question mark kick.
Is a Question Mark Kick Effective in MMA?
A question mark kick is effective in MMA for the following 5 reasons.
1. Deceptive Technique
A question mark kick is hard to block or read because the technique looks to be going low or to the body, and it whips up with speed and power for a knockout blow if it connects cleanly.
2. Uncommon Technique
A question mark is hugely effective in MMA because it’s a very uncommon technique a lot of fighters aren’t expecting, and the techniques which connect unexpectedly are the ones that knock you out.
It’s very uncommon because it requires impeccable timing, speed, and technique, as well as both flexibility and balance through the technique’s complete range of motion. A question mark kick requires great flexibility and mobility in the hips, knees, legs, and groin.
And while UFC/MMA fighters do have good flexibility and mobility in their hips, knees, legs, and groin, to perfect the question mark kick and become very effective with it, stretching every day is a must and UFC fighters fail to do this because they’re focused on doing a lot more things than other combat sports.
3. Powerful and speedy kick
A question mark kick can be highly effective because of the speed and power it can be thrown with. Its knockout potential is increased because most fighters believe a body kick is coming and therefore lower their hands and tilt their head into the question mark kick with momentum.
If the instep of the foot is turned downward and the pivot allows the leg to get very high, the question mark kick can connect to the top of the head over an opponent’s guard. This is powerful enough to knock out an opponent, and if not, it’s powerful enough to knock them off balance for follow-up strikes.
4. Small gloves
A question mark kick is highly effective in MMA because the small gloves fighters wear mean the kick connects hard even if it’s blocked. The small gloves also mean there are more holes in the defense, and question mark kicks over the top of the guard are more likely to connect.
5. Split focus
In MMA there are so many things to look out for, more than in any other combat sport in the world. Standing wrestling, striking with knees and elbows, different variations of punches and kicks, ground grappling, clinches, takedowns, different feints, setups, and the list goes on.
Combined with how question mark kicks are uncommon in MMA, they’re extremely effective because fighters have a split focus on all the different weapons which means there’s more chance of a question mark kick connecting – especially once a fighter starts to tire or is hurt.
Also, once strikes hurt a fighter in the stomach or liver, it’s a natural instinct for them to defend the body and be less focused on defending the head.
On the other hand, some fighters may feel the question mark is ineffective in MMA for the following two reasons.
1. Difficult to land
Going back to the above points, many UFC fighters don’t use the question mark kick because it’s a highly advanced kick difficult to land in fighting situations.
Most fighters concentrate on performing the basics correctly and staying safe, and many fighters are too injured or tight to execute a question mark kick effectively.
2. Puts you in danger of a counter
If a question mark kick is read and either slipped or caught, it leaves the kicker vulnerable to being countered with strikes and especially a takedown as they’re on one leg which is pivoted far backward and they may also be leaning backward to help with the elevation of the kick.
How To Set up a Question Mark Kick
Part of the question mark kicks effectiveness is how it can be set up with the following various kick fakes and tricks.
Using the eyes and nod – taking the eyes from high to low before executing a question mark kick gets the opponent thinking a leg or body kick is coming; especially if setup with some low kicks beforehand. A little nod downward also has the same effect.
Roundhouse kick to the body – using a slight hip turn seen in a roundhouse body kick makes the opponent think one is coming; especially if they’ve been conditioned beforehand. Simply pivot on the standing leg further and use a sharp hip, shoulder, and torso turn before whipping up the question mark kick.
Teep/front kicks – using a straight feint increases the speed and draws attention to the centerline away from the side the question mark kick will connect.
If an opponent is conditioned to expect teeps/front kicks to the body, they’ll try to block them or catch them by lowering their hands which leaves them exposed up top.
Because of the simplicity of their chamber, both the teep and front kick can be easily transitioned to a question mark kick with a swivel of the knee, hip rotation, and pivot.
Leg kicks – setting up the question mark kick with calf kicks or thigh kicks is effective because once the opponent is conditioned to expect them, they’ll be looking to check or catch the leg kick.
If they try and catch the kick, their head is open to be struck, and if they lift their leg slightly to check a kick, the question mark kick can knock an opponent off-balance whether they block it or not.
Also, while it’s true fighters keep their guard high for the most part when checking kicks, a larger pivot, hip kick, and rollover of the leg allows the leg to get higher and come down over an opponent’s guard and connect to the top/side of their head.
Oblique kick – a great fake because the heel goes inward and the toes face outward and this inward momentum gives the kick great speed and power when it’s quickly redirected into a question mark kick with a turn of the hips and a whipping motion.
Here’s a short video of ONE Championship muay Thai fighter Sam-A Gaiyanghadao showing how to perform and set up the question mark kick.
Best Question Mark Kick Fighters in UFC, MMA, Kickboxing, Muay Thai
Here are the best question-mark kick fighters in each combat sport.
- Israel Adesanya (UFC) – Utilized the question mark kick at the highest level in both kickboxing and MMA
- Holly Holm (UFC) – Scored a question mark kick knockout in the UFC
- Luke Rockhold (UFC) – Well-known for his beautiful question mark kick technique and for using it frequently
- Stephen Thompson (UFC) – Infrequently uses the question mark kick but its part of his karate-kicking arsenal
- Usman Nurmagomedov (Bellator) – Most recently used the question mark kick to knockdown and effectively secure the win against Benson Henderson
- Umar Nurmagomedov (UFC) – Throws many question mark kicks equally effectively with both the rear and lead leg
- Mirko Filipovic (UFC/PRIDE) – Well-known as one of MMA’s greatest kickers, Filipovic also infrequently used question mark kicks to surprise opponents
- Sam-A Gaiyanghadao
- Fransisco Filho
- Glaube Feitosa
- Israel Adesanya
- Yuta Kubo
Best Question Mark Kick Knockouts in UFC/MMA
Here are the best question-mark kick knockouts in the UFC and MMA.
- Holly Holm (W) vs Bethe Correia – UFC FN:111
- Aleksander Ilic (W) vs Damian Janikowski – KSW 47
- Ian Garry (W) vs Matteo Ceglia – CW Unplugged 2
- Nicolas Dalby (W) vs Sergei Churilov – CW 66
- Maike Linhares (W) vs Fabricio Oliveira – BFS 1
The Bottom Line
A question mark kick in MMA/martial arts is a fake low/body kick into a high kick with a snapping motion following the direction of a question mark. A question mark kick is highly effective in MMA and will likely become more common in the coming years.